Friday, December 25, 2015

Full Court Press 12.25.15: NBA Season Has Finally Arrived #NBAXMas

Basketball Season Has Arrived
By @mrgroce

At first glance, I'm pretty sure when you saw the title, you figured that this was an article written in October. No, it wasn't. It's December 22nd and I'm sitting at my computer watching season one, episode 4 of Breaking Bad. When it comes to this show, I'm pretty late to the party, but as far as the NBA season is concerned, now is the time to start paying attention. Other than witnessing the Golden State Warriors begin the season with best start in the history of the NBA, you haven't missed much. The Spurs are good, as usual. The Cavs are good and injured, but almost back to fully healthy. Kobe is retiring and won't stop shooting. Dwight Howard is unhappy and people in the media are talking way too much about the New York Knicks.

But guess what?

Christmas Day is here, and for a lot of fans this is almost the equivalent of MLB Opening Day. Five games featuring five possible championship contenders. The main event takes place at 5:00 PM when the Cavs visit the Warriors for a one game "rematch" of last season's NBA Finals. 

I'm not quite sure when it happened, but somehow along the way I've developed a deep fondness of the Golden State Warriors and the league's reigning MVP Steph Curry. Like everyone else I was a naysayer who repeatedly said that a jump shooting team can not win a championship, but the Warriors kept winning and we kept doubting. Each round of the playoffs a key player was missing from one of the Warriors opponents. This gave everyone who doubted Golden State an excuse to say that their championship run was lucky. Now I'm no expert, but I think it's safe to say that the absence of Patrick Beverly and Tony Allen is not what propelled the Warriors to the Finals. Would things have been different if Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love were available for the Cavs? Maybe, but this team is good, they play the right way, and the best player is dominant, all 6'3", 190 lbs of him. 

I'm in the minority, but I feel that Curry has surpassed LeBron as the best player in the game. I think when people hear this they assume that I'm saying that Steph has had a better career or is on pace to have a better one. No, what I'm saying is that RIGHT NOW Curry is better simply because he's unstoppable and knows what his strengths are. 13 years in LeBron still doesn't post up much, still does not have a dependable jump shop (although he loves to shoot em), and is barely an average free throw shooter. Despite that, he still gives you 26 points 7 rebounds and 6 assists per game. Of course these are numbers that can not be ignored or glossed over, but I'm one of those people that feel like numbers do lie. Remember Steph has been in the league seven years fewer than LeBron, but is only has one less ring.

There is still one challenge that I need to see the Warriors complete before I crown them of the best teams that I've ever seen. I need to see what they can do against a Greg Popovich coached team in a best of seven series. So far the all of the attention has been on Golden State and Cleveland, but the Spurs have the second best record in the league and are only 3 games behind the Warriors in the overall standings. They have transitioned from a team that was led by Tony Parker and Tim Duncan to a team that is now being guided by LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard. San Antonio, Golden State and Cleveland all have great rosters, and in my opinion the Cavs have the best, but the Warriors and Spurs play "the right way" for longer stretches in games than the Cavaliers do.
The Cavs have a tendency to get complacent on defense and lackadaisical on offense. The Warriors, a great jump shooting team sometimes forgets that a drive to the hoop is smarter than heaving a 30 footer even if it is a "heat check". The Spurs, well, I'm still having a hard time finding weaknesses, but one or two are bound to pop up.  All three teams have multiple go to guys, and all three teams can play big or go small. Barring some sort of catastrophic disaster the Cavs will be in the Finals, but the battle between Golden State and San Antonio will be epic.

As the NFL regular season is coming to a close, the casual basketball fan will turn their attention to the NBA, and when they do they'll see the defending champs chasing history by trying to match and surpass the 72-10 record of the Chicago Bulls.

There will be other storylines to watch for:

1 Can Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant work together and get OKC back to the Finals?

2 Will the Bulls blow up their roster or make one more run at it with the team they have?

3 Does Miami pose a legitimate challenge to the Cavs in the East?

4 Will the fans or coaches vote Kobe onto the Western Conference all star team?

That last one was for me and I don't care what you have to say about it.

Merry Christmas, and lets enjoy the season.

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